Proclaiming the Gospel, the message I preached at Pastor Logan’s Church.
Proclaiming the Gospel, the message I preached at Pastor Logan’s Church.
I've always been amazed at the emphasis that evangelical Christians put on identifying heresy. It seems to be one of the main subjects of their religious education. I sometimes imagine evangelical seminaries and Bible schools having game nights where they play, Name That Heresy. Future pastors, theologians and ministers compete against each other to see how few of a religious opponents words they need to hear before they can identify his heresy.
Game Show Host: This so called minister was from Texas but his ministry headquarters were in Tulsa, Oklahoma and he was close friends with Oral Roberts.
Contestant #1 Future Pastor: I can name that heresy in 10 words.
Contestant #2 Future Professor of Theology: I can name that heresy in 5 words.
Game Show Host: Name that heresy…
Most evangelical ministers seem to be more familiar with the various heresies than they are the Bible. They can tell if a preacher's a Pelagian, or a Manichean, an Arian or a Montanist faster than you can say, "Please turn in your Bibles to…" Why waste time studying the Bible when learning to recognize heresy is a much faster route to all, acceptable, truth.
I shouldn't let the Catholics off the hook, but they've apparently narrowed all the heresies down to one, " Are you now or have you ever been a member of any church other than the one true, Catholic and apostolic church? " At a Catholic internet forum I was reading, someone had asked about a particular healing ministry. The healing minister had been a Catholic Priest and the poster's parents liked one of his books, so the poster wanted to know more about the healing minister. It didn't take long for a Torquemada-wanna-be to come online and assert that the healing minister was teaching heresy because he had suggested that the Catholic Church had missed it in the area of healing. Torquemada Jr. claimed that since the Catholic Church was the body of Christ, it was Christ, and to suggest that the Catholic church had missed it in any area was the same as saying that Christ had missed it. Okaaaay… well there's not much you can say to that.
Anyway, I said all that to get to this: This emphasis on heresy, by Christian churches, is an artifact of Bubble Boy Christianity. I mean "bubble boy" like the "boy" in the Seinfeld Episode who had to live in a
So why do we have so much difficulty seeing what is so plainly and repeatedly set out? Why do we reflexively try to spiritualize these prosperity scriptures? Why do we resist the plain meaning of them? What makes us want to argue that God couldn’t be interested in such things?
Turns out the problem is the tremendous influence of Greek philosophy on Christianity. The objections to prosperity aren’t about what the Bible says, but about something above the Bible, something more authoritative than the Word of God, something above God himself, something to which even God must submit, Greek philosophy’s notion of what a God should be like.
This quote of Papa Hagin's really helped straighten out my thinking when it comes to what faith is:
…that’s what Pastor Price said. We’d been attending his church, Crenshaw Christian Center, a nondenominational, charismatic, word of faith, church in Los Angeles, for a few years. We’d recently moved to the old Pepperdine University Campus at 79th and Vermont, in south central Los Angeles, to accommodate the church’s growth. The Church had plans for a large auditorium but at that time we were meeting in an old theater style building on the campus, and having 3 services on Sunday mornings. We, Becky and I, were sitting a little towards the back of the middle, on the left hand side, when Pastor Price said, “God always answers my prayers.”
Pastor Price didn’t mean it in that trite, sanctimonious, ‘Sometimes he says yes, sometimes he says no, sometimes he says wait a while,’ way. He meant God always said “Yes,” to his prayers, God always gave him what he asked for when he prayed. When I heard it I thought, ‘I wish God always answered my prayers.’
So Admiral Stockdale was a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton from 1965 to 1973. During that time he was tortured over twenty times. As the senior officer he established systems to help the other prisoners survive their captivity, including a system for dealing with torture and for communicating through coded taps. When Collins, the author of Good To Great, asked the Admiral how he survived such horrible conditions with no certainty of ever being released, with no certainty as to “the end of the story.” Stockdale replied,
“ I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which , in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Stockdale survived because he had faith that he would eventually get out. But the next question Collins asked is the one that gave rise to this post.
“ ‘Who didn’t make it out?’ ‘ Oh, that’s easy,’ he said, ‘The optimists.’ ”
This answer confused Collins and it confused me too. On the one hand he says it was his faith in the certainty of his survival which resulted in his survival, on the other he says the ones who didn’t survive were the optimists. At first the statements seemed contradictory. Stockdale explained,
“ ‘ The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ and Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.’ … ‘This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose– with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.’”
Faith, real faith, is not moved by the circumstances good or bad. Faith rests on something greater than the circumstances, God's will. If we allow ourselves to be moved by even good news rather than staying fixed on the promise of God we could well end up like the optimistic prisoners of war who died of a broken heart.
Romans 4:19-21 “19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”
Here's a nice testimony of answered prayer, from Ms. Martha, recorded in real time. Here's how it started last Monday morning:
I immediately texted back so that she'd know I received her text.
But I was a worried. She needed that car. Was she going to be able to get to work, take the kids to school? She lives about 20 miles from Mexicali so the first imagination that came to my mind was the thief driving the car into Mexico. Nobody at the border would know it was stolen.
I began to pray in the spirit. Paul says in Romans 8:26-28 that the spirit will help us to pray, when we don't know how to pray, with "sighs to deep for words,". So I prayed in tongues, in the spirit. Paul continues, that if we search our heart we'll know what the spirit is praying so that we can "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
I'm praying in the spirit and searching my heart so I can know what God wants me to pray, more precisely, what God wants me to say. By prayer here I don't mean asking God for something, I mean speaking to the mountain in faith, I mean decreeing God's will in the world.
As I'm praying I get something in my heart... but I'm hesitant because by sight it doesn't seem possible, so at 6:34 I text this instead:
But I always ask Becky to agree in prayer with me according to:
Matthew 18:19 (NIV) Again, truly I tell you, that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my father in heaven.
I like to put that verse this way, If two of you shall be in agreement with respect to anything you decree on the earth, it will be done for you of my father in heaven.
Becky knows I expect her to say, or decree, the same thing I'm saying. We're speaking to the mountain, we're decreeing God's will in the earth, we're exercising the authority of Jesus. So I tell Becky, "Her car's going to turn up," and Becky says, "Her car's going to turn up."
I continue to pray about it for the rest of the day. When Chrisy gets home from school I ask her to with agree me. I tell her, "Say, Ms. Martha's car is going to turn up in, Jesus name," and Chrisy says, "Ms. Martha's car is going to turn up, in Jesus name."
So by that point in the day I'm pretty certain what my spirit is saying, what my heart is saying, what God, speaking to me in my spirit, is saying, about the situation, so I text Martha again:
The next morning I get this text:
Praise God. God is good. God wants to answer your prayers.